- what to look for when choosing the right probiotic product
Probiotics are not all the same
Health benefits supported by human clinical studies are explicitly connected to the specific probiotic strain that was studied.
For example, the health benefits associated with our Lactobacillus rhamnosus, LGG®1 (hereafter referred to by use of the trademark LGG®) strain does not extend to other, generic Lactobacillus rhamnosus strains.
More than one probiotic strain in one product does not mean it will provide increased health benefits. Specific combinations must have been clinically studied and supported.2 The clinical results of a probiotic strain are specifically related to the subjects in the particular study (for example, tested in adults, or new born babies).3 The clinical results of a probiotic strain are specifically related to the health area investigated (immune health, gut health, oral health etc.).3
Just the right amount
Probiotic products contain millions to billions of live bacteria, each of which can form bacterial communities (or, colonies); thus, the strength of the probiotic product is given as Colony Forming Units (CFU).2
A higher CFU number does not mean it is the most effective probiotic.4 500 million to 50 billion CFU have been associated with various health benefits, depending on the strain used and on the area of health.5
What to look for?
Bacterial strains Open Close
Choose products that include designations for each strain. This identifies the specific strain in the product, which is important, as different strains within the same species can support different health areas due to their unique characteristics.
Total active cell count (CFU) Open Close
Claims & recommended usage Open Close
The number of bacteria in a probiotic product decreases with time
Probiotics are live microorganisms and must be alive when consumed to function appropriately.
The number of live bacteria in a probiotic product will decrease between manufacturing and purchasing. This means that on a probiotic label, the CFU level at the ‘end of shelf life’ date (a product's potential expiration) should be within the same range of what was studied and associated with a particular beneficial effect.2
Level of probiotic present on the manufacturing date is not as important as the level present at the 'end of shelf life' date.2
Not all probiotics need to be refrigerated to maintain their functionality; actually, most can be kept at room temperature.4
Safe to consume confidently
People in good health may consume probiotics at the studied CFU level as a daily supplement.4
Health care professionals should be consulted when considering probiotic supplementation for babies, women who are pregnant, individuals with a weakened immune system, or people with short bowel syndrome.4
The probiotic should be approved for human consumption by a recognized regulatory or food safety authority:
- GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) notified to the FDA in the US;6
- QPS (Qualified Presumption of Safety) granted by EFSA in Europe.7
LGG® is a registered trademark of Chr. Hansen A/S.
The article is provided for informational purposes regarding probiotics and is not meant to suggest that any substance referenced in the article is intended to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent any disease.
1. Hojsak I, et al. Lactobacillus GG in the prevention of nosocomial gastrointestinal and respiratory tract infections. Pediatrics. 2010;125(5):e1171-7. (PubMed)
2. Jackson SA, et al. Improving End-User Trust in the Quality of Commercial Probiotic Products. Frontiers in Microbiology. 2019;10:739. (PubMed)
3. McFarland LV, et al. Strain-Specificity and Disease-Specificity of Probiotic Efficacy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Front Med (Lausanne). 2018;5:124-. (PubMed)
4. World Gastroenterology Organisation. World Gastroenterology Organisation Global Guidelines - Probiotics and prebiotics. 2017.
5. Hao Q, et al. Probiotics for preventing acute upper respiratory tract infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011(9):Cd006895. (PubMed)
6. Food and Drug Administration. GRAS Notice Inventory > Agency Response Letter. GRAS Notice No GRN 000049. 2002.
7. EFSA Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ). Statement on the update of the list of QPS-recommended biological agents intentionally added to food or feed as notified to EFSA 3: Suitability of taxonomic units notified to EFSA until September 2015. EFSA Journal. 2015;13:4331.